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Originally published Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 2:49 PM

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Movie review

"Rudo y Cursi": A crass comedy of sibling rivalry

"Rudo y Cursi," written and directed by Carlos Cuarón, stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal as feuding brothers in this rowdy, skin-deep Mexican soccer comedy.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

"Rudo y Cursi" (Tough and Corny), with Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Guillermo Francella. Written and directed by Carlos Cuarón. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains nudity, profanity). In Spanish, with English subtitles. Guild 45th, Meridian.

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Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal — the stars of Alfonso Cuarón's 2001 art-house hit, "Y Tu Mamá También" — play feuding brothers in "Rudo y Cursi," a rowdy, skin-deep Mexican sports comedy that was written and directed by Cuarón's brother, Carlos.

Beto (Luna) and Tato (Bernal) turn sibling rivalry into a spectator sport as the whole nation watches in the final scenes. One of them wants to be a champion goalie, one has a budding music-video career, and wild bets are placed when they turn up in a Mexico City stadium for a brother-against-brother soccer showdown.

Their rags-to-riches-to-rags-again saga begins on a more modest level, when a sleazy talent scout, Batutu (Guillermo Francella), visits their poverty-stricken banana farm and stokes their rivalry. The brothers spend the rest of the picture taunting each other.

While Tato is a bachelor and Beto is married with children, they both tend to act like idiots. Beto follows Tato to the big leagues, "borrows" his wife's savings and bets everything on a high-stakes poker game. Tato, during one of his many fits, shoots a television set and attacks the drapes in his hotel room.

Some of this is funny, thanks to the playful performances, but much of it just seems familiar and juvenile. The chemistry that Bernal and Luna brought to their previous collaboration doesn't always survive, perhaps because the actors now seem too old for this sort of thing, perhaps because the director misses too many opportunities.

While a costly, drug-lord-sponsored wedding episode suggests a scene from "The Godfather," it comes off as neither homage nor satire. It's just toothless. When a gun is introduced at a family gathering, apparently to settle an argument, the threat seems contrived.

The characters' nonstop use of homophobic insults seems intended to comment on Latin machismo, as do the homoerotic hazing scenes in the showers. But "Y Tu Mamá También" (which was cowritten by Carlos Cuarón) had more to say about the contradictions of same-sex attraction.

A veteran Mexican actor, Francella gets many of the best lines. He has a broader vocabulary than the brothers, and he brings a welcome wry tone to the mayhem they cause.

John Hartl:

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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